Yesterday, American Airlines and its regional carrier American Eagle were forced to cancel some 970 flights and delay another 1068 after the airlines experienced “intermittent outages” in communicating with its reservation system. The outages effectively shut down the airlines’ operations, stranding passengers and flight crews alike.
The airline, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, publicly acknowledged the problem about 11am CDT, and the problem was not fully resolved for another four and a half hours. The reservation system situation caused the airline to request the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to place a ground stop on its aircraft for several hours.
Late yesterday afternoon, American CEO Tom Horton issued an 84-second video statement in which he said, “We experienced a system-wide network outage, causing flight disruptions and inconveniencing many of you. And for that, we are very sorry.”
Horton went on to say, “As you’d imagine, we do have redundancies in our systems, but unfortunately in this case, we had a software issue that impacted both our primary and back-up systems.”
The airline acknowledged that the "software issue" did not reside with the Sabre Holdings reservation system it (and many other airlines) uses, but with its own IT operations.
American has said that it will accommodate yesterday’s affected travelers. However, the airline also warns that although it has tried to get its aircraft and flight crews where they needed to be this morning, some residual knock-on effects may linger into today.
It was recently announced that when US Airways and American merge later this year to form the world’s largest airline, American Airlines’ legacy systems will be the ones used.
Given yesterday's events and United Airline’s recent experience, the reservation system cut-over period would probably be a good time to stay home or try another airline.
Photo: Max Faulkner/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram/AP Photo
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.